Posts Tagged ‘Cuban-Americans’

Gerardo : We were subjected a grossly unfair trial

September 30, 2015

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An Interview with Gerardo Hernández one of the three Cuban agents
released following the Havana-Washington agreement.

We were subjected a grossly unfair trial

Eduardo Febbro
<http://www.rebelion.org/mostrar.php?tipo=5&id=Eduardo%20Febbro&inicio=0&gt;
Página/12
translated by Sean Joseph Clancy

*If there is a story within the story that might serve as a synopsis
of the bitter history between the U.S. and Cuba, it is that of Cuban
agents condemned to serve sentences in North American jails,
disproportionate to what they had actually done.

A few stops beyond the stairs to a station in North Brussels, where an
elderly orhestra are making an unholy mess of the “Besame Mucho” song,
one of three Cuban intelligence agents released as part of a
settlement partially mediated by the Vatican on the reestablishment of
diplomatic ties.

If there is a story within the story that might serve as a synopsis of
the bitter history between the U.S. and Cuba, it is that of Cuban
agents condemned to serve sentences in North American jails,
disproportionate to what they had actually done.

Gerardo Hernández is one of 5 Cuban intelligence agents who along with
Ramon Lanañino, Fernando Gonzalez Llort, Rene Gonzalez Sehewerert and
Antinio Guerrero Rodriguez who during the mid 1990’s  undertook
special missions within the U.S. in order to discover and prevent
terrorist actions, including attacks on hotel and tourist resorts and
sabotage by counter-revolutionary groups planned in Miami and later
carried out in Cuba.

The Five were uncovered and arrested in 1998. Later in what was one of
the longest trials in North American judicial history, the Cubans were
issued sentences which essentially were political punishments
orchestrated by the U.S. administrations obsession with Cuba.
Gerardo Hernandez, accused of “conspiracy to commit murder” was given
two life sentences.

Generally speaking, cases involving unregistered foreign agents
discovered operating in a foreign territory are dealt with behind
closed doors and resolved by negotiation. The case of the Cuban Five
was the polar opposite. Amid espionage and other outrageous
accusations, they were tried by a court in Miami and used as
implements of political manipulation.

Free today, the refreshing intelligence of Gerardo Hernandez reveals
no trace of the 16 years spent in North American penitentiaries, the
abuses suffered nor the long months of detention in rigorously imposed
solitary confinement.

Thanks to interventions by U.S. senator Patrick Leahy, one of those
who has most fervently  advocated for the lifting of the U.S. blockade
of Cuba, Hernandez had a son while still in prison.

The senator helped organize for Gerardos wife, Adriana Perez, br
artificially inseminated.
Following 18 months of secret negotiations with Pope Francis as
guarantor, the seemingly impossible dreams of freedom of the three
agents still behind bars in U.S. jails – Antonio, Gerardo and Ramon –
became a reality on the day of the historical declarations, December
17th 2014.

–The theme of the Cuban agents was what had been blocking, but that
also eventually unlocked the key to, negotiations with the U.S.

–Yes, exactly, our case remained very much in the air because of more
than 50 years of adversarial or non-existent relations with the U.S.
which are what led to the politicized nature of the trial of the Cuban
Five and what underpinned the cruel nature of our treatment.

Remember, there was a case a few years ago regarding the arrest of
Russian spies.  That was speedily dealt with  by negotiation and they
were repatriated without ever having to stand trial.

Our case was complicated by the history of conflict between the U.S.
and Cuba, which is paradoxically what eventually facilitated a
resolution.

For certain, the resolution of our case cannot only be attributed to
the negotiations, because the solidarity we experienced over so many
years was also relevant.

The Five of us had become very well known, there were presidents, and
religious, cultural  and political personalities, all calling for our
release.

Ours had become a most embarrassing case for the north Americans. It
had taken a lot of work for us to develop any awareness of our case.

It had been one of the longest in U.S. legal history; lasting 7 months
during which more than 100 witnesses testified. The press however
maintained an amost blanket silence.

Little by little the solidarity work of comrades who took to the
streets  protesting became necessary.

–Today we know that the Pope played a leading role in the agreement.
The Vatican was the  guarantor of the liberation process. Were you
aware of the Vaticans intervention?

–No, I did not know about it. It came as a surprise because we were
removed from that entire negotiation process. I did not know about the
role played by the Vatican.  It was afterwards that I learned about
the parts played by various cardinals, amongst them the Archbishop of
Havana and Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who I hold in high esteem. We are
truly grateful.

We have always accepted the help of all persons of goodwill. It must
be remembered that in addition to the political connotations
surrounding our case that there was a profound human tragedy also
unfolding. I am glad that  Pope Francis, being a Latin American was
conscientious.

I can honestly express great admiration for him. He has demonstrated a
very courageous attitudes, worthy of respect. On behalf of the Five
and our families, beneficiaries of this attitude, I send him our
thanks.

–If one examines the terms of negotiation, Cuba did not really concede
anything at all. Washington always maintained that they would never
deal with Cuba in the present political context, but did so
nevertheless.

–My personal opinion is that for a very long time the U.S. held that
line, that as long as there was a Castro in power in Cuba –which is
how they refer to the Revolution with the Cuban people in power – and
that they would also  never negotiate with Cuba while the Communist
Party remained in power and the Revolution remained.

All of these conditions still exist and we nevertheless have talked
under the only condition always imposed by Cuba, that the talks are
between equals and absolutely respectful  of our independence and
sovereignty.

–Did you at any point feel the weight of history on your shoulders?
The Five were, to a very great extent , the key to the knot

–I never saw the case as being of that magnitude. More towards the
end, when there were rumors of a solution, and especially when our
release was announced I began to feel it somewhat. I did then —
without knowing the extent of the progress — imagine that this might
be the route to further progress. When Raul Castro spoke with our
family members by his side is when I fully realized.

The three released Cubans knew nothing about the talks. We were
informed one day prior to our releases and we learned about the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations through Raul’s speech.

–Your case in an example for the world about the use of the justice
system as a weapon in a conflict with another state.

–Yes, the case of the Five was a revenge attack against the Cuban
Revolution and Cuban Revolutionaries. The U.S. saw an opportunity to
score a point and did so by taking Five men hostage. We accepted that
we had, by possessing false passports and operating as foreign agents
unregistered with the State Department, violated U.S law.

Ok, but we had a legal right to enter a “necessity” defense and to
outline why, but that was not permitted. The trial was held in Miami
where we, in reality, had no rights whatsoever. This was a totally
biased trial.

We were found guilty and given the maximum possible sentences on every
count. They thought that by punishing the Five meant punishing the
Cuban Revolution.

Their initial plan was to have all of us betray Cuba and mount a media
show against the Revolution.

That did not happen and so came 17 months initially — and later many
more —  in punishment cells without ever hacing committed and
indiscipline. This is why our wives were denied visits.

–Paradoxically, while you were being condemned , there were people
distributing a very thick manual in Miami.

–Incredible! The US claims to wage war against terrorism.  Young North
Americans serve in the Army and die in other countries in the name of
this war on terror. But the terrorists are here!

Luis Posada Carriles remains at liberty to stroll around the Miami
streets despite being responsible for the attack on  the Cubana
Airlines plane in 1976 in which 73 people lost their lives and the
bombing of hotels in Havana in which a young Italian man was killed.

He has an long record of terrorism but freely walks the streets.
Carriles and others were trained by the CIA to bring down the Cuban
Revolution. There have been points in history when the CIA had nothing
to do with them, but during these they turned a blind eye to them as
they continued uninhibited to do as they wished.

–Was this the mission you were dispatched to Miami on, to investigate
such groups?

–Yes, to investigate terrorist groups such as Alpha 66, The F4
Commandos, Brothers to the Rescue… and these groups still exist,
still have their training camps there

Cuba had certainly complained many times to the US Government about
the activities of such groups, but they continued to carry on with
impunity, creating the necessity for Cuba to send agents to monitor
and infiltrate them and to send information back to Cuba to prevent
acts of terrorism.

–Have your views on the US or the Revolution changed?

–They have changed in that today my character and my revoltionary
convictions are more solid now, as is my love for the Cuban people.

I lived for 16 years in those jails and that society and during that
time encountered within the prisons a great number of experiences,
human dramas,  young people – barely twenty years of age — who might
have been doctors or engineers condemned to life sentences. This is
because there is a system that, from the moment of their birth,
instills in them that they must aquire more, that they should walk
over anyone to get ahead in life and get what they want.

This is absolute brutalization, it is truly a human tragedy. Those
years spent in the US, both on the streets and behind bars have
reaffirmed my conviction that, no matter what problems we may have in
Cuba, we must continue to work to improve our system and our
socialism.

I do not anything like I witnessed in the U.S. for Cuba. But I do not
feel any resentment or bitterness to the U.S. No, I feel compassion
and no hatred for anybody.

–You were also confronted by the great change that the one time great
enemy of Cuba might be transforming, even into a potential ally.
The Cuba of your time in prison is not the Cuba to which you been freed.

–For sure! It would be strange if it were the same Cuba because that
would require a denial of our own we would be denying our own dialect.
I am happy that Cuba has changed and that most of the changes are for
the better.

No revolution can remain static. We are confident that the Cuban
people can confront the challenges posed by this process. They are
significant challenges. There are thise who suggest that they (the
U.S.) will attain by the embrace of a bear what they could not during
more than 50 years of Blockade, aggression and threats….

The New Cubanologos: What’s in a Word?

August 4, 2015

from Counterpunch

Just two weeks after the historic re-opening of embassies and re-establishing of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and not a moment passes without a Cuba “advocate” talking about “trade” and “travel”. These two words represent two different human phenomena that have gone hand-in-hand since the dawn of antiquity. Due to the enmity exacerbated by a Cold War policy these inalienable rights to travel and trade, guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, have been effectively violated and strictly prohibited for American citizens regarding the island since 1962.

President Obama’s policy of engagement has opened the floodgates for what seems to be the inevitable process of normalization. A tsunami of tourists, commerce coalitions, export specialists, celebrities, and congressional junkets has inundated Havana and other Cuban cities with its newcomers finding it to be so much more complex and vibrant than one has been led to believe by manipulative politicians and a servile media all these years stateside. Now, everyone is interested in going to see for themselves and trying to establish a foothold in a nascent mixed economy.

But what exactly does the media, newly minted cubanologos, and our elected officials mean when they utilize such verbiage?  The American public is being bombarded by a message of promoting “trade” with Cuba. Granted, this is a decidedly positive change from where we were less than a year ago but the manner in which these terms get bandied about clearly demonstrate how much farther we need to go.

This Monday the New York Times Editorial Board published an editorial entitled “Growing Momentum to Repeal Cuban Embargo” in which it stated: “It is time for Congress to help make engagement the cornerstone of American policy toward Cuba.”

It continues by mentioning a new bipartisan bill in Congress introduced by representatives Tom Emmer (R-MN 6th) and Kathy Castor (D-FL14) that would “lift the embargo.” It also calls legislation introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota, a bill ” that would allow regular commerce with Cuba.”

Unfortunately, neither bill pretends to “lift the embargo” nor, “allow regular commerce” with Cuba. In fact, they aren’t even two bills. They’re one in the same, to the letter.

Senator Klobuchar’s S. 491 The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2015 is exactly what it calls itself. In many news outlets it has been misrepresented as an end to the embargo since it was introduced in February.

It is….sort of…., for some.

This bill seeks to strike certain sections of the different pieces of legislation enacted throughout the past 54 years that have codified the United States policy of economic strangulation against the Republic of Cuba. The elimination of said sections are meant to allow for more exports to the island under the loosening of several restrictions along with striking the sections encouraging the president to penalize other countries for doing business or investing in the island. It also will allow Americans to travel more freely to Cuba.

But is this promoting trade?

It does not allow for Cuban exports to be imported to the United States. Neither does it strike the extraterritorial requirements for a transitional government. It doesn’t take away the barriers for Cuba to become a member of the OAS and the International Financial Institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc. so the island can count on the financing it will need for mega-projects like the Mariel Economic Zone. Boondoggles like Radio and TV Marti and the State Department’s “democracy promotion” programs will, by law, still have to be created, funded, and executed putting American diplomats at odds with their Cuban counterparts. It doesn’t touch the Cuban Adjustment Act or even address the recent immigration crisis brought upon by Cubans sensing an end to the infamous “wet foot/dry foot” policy and willing to risk their lives to take advantage of it. There are so many things that are important that this legislation doesn’t address. It’s a good start but hardly a triumph for the forces of normalization. The bill hardly promotes trade according to the original sense of the word.

Curiously, the NYT posted an image of a map showing Cuba and Florida with arrows going to and from the island across the Straits to its northern neighbor. Trade is a two-way street and it only happens when conditions in both places allow it. What these highly touted measures are establishing is a one-way street that neither “lifts the embargo” nor allows “regular commerce” with Cuba.

How will US grain exporters fare when they try to make their case for increasing exports when the same representatives from Brazil will say that they have a similar product but come from a country that accepts Cuban rum, tobacco, and other imports? Since 2008, the evidence shows a steep decline in U.S. agriculture exports to Cuba as Midwestern farmers have lost market share to Brazilian farmers and corporations. Just because we have an embassy there now doesn’t mean that Cuba is going to go out of its way to do business with us when there’s no chance of reciprocity. The recent goodwill between both countries will only go so far.

Cuba has a finite capacity to produce pharmaceuticals that, potentially, could be vital to millions of sick Americans. Vaccines against lung cancer, diabetes, and other potentially fatal diseases have been developed by the island’s biomedical initiatives and are universally lauded for their innovation and dissemination. In order to increase that capacity the island’s biomedical industry would need financing and mechanisms put in place so the final product could be offered in the U.S. If these laws truly “lift the embargo” and allow for ” regular commerce” then millions of sick Americans could regain some hope that they might have access to Cuban services and products. These hopes will not be answered by Senator Klobuchar’s original bill. These illnesses will not be alleviated by swapping out exports for “trade” in Representative Emmer’s H.R. 3238 Cuba Trade Act of 2015.

The very fact that these bills are getting traction and attention is encouraging but the language being used to promote a transforming Cuba policy needs to be more accurate. These bills are chipping away at the embargo and should be considered, debated, and, hopefully, passed. But let’s not pull a rotator cuff patting our selves on the back for lifting the embargo.

Normalization is a process that will eventually lead to a much-needed reconciliation between both nations. U.S. exports and business interests along with tourists, celebrities, legislators, and humanitarian groups traveling to the island have a role to play but they cannot be the only ones to dictate the pace of renewed bilateral relations. The road to reconciliation will be a two-way causeway of ideas, resources, and opportunities. Our legislative efforts and the media exposure given to such measures should reflect that.

Benjamin Willis is an activist living in New York who has worked with the Cuban American community in bringing about engagement during the Obama era. His book reviews are available in the International Journal of Cuban Studies. He is Co-Director of the United States Cuba NOW PAC.

US / Cuba Relations: What Would Constitute Normal?

July 15, 2015

President Dwight D. Eisenhower broke diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961.  Fifty-four years later, on Monday the 20th of July, the United States and Cuba will advance toward normalization of diplomatic relations.  Presumably, the US will no longer treat Cuba as its enemy and treat the island simply as its next-door neighbor.  Maybe …

The raising of the flags at the embassies on the 20th of July is much anticipated.  But what does this all really mean?  After more than 56 years of trying to destroy the Cuban Revolution through US sponsored terrorism, an invasion organized and launched by the CIA, biological warfare, an economic and commercial blockade, clandestine infiltrations and a permanent propaganda campaign against Cuba, what would constitute “normal” relations between Washington and La Habana?

The word normal derives from the Latin normalis.  In the context of US-Cuba relations it refers to civilized diplomatic behavior, according to historically established philosophical precepts: norms or rules of peaceful conduct between nations.

What rules of peaceful conduct by the United States towards Cuba may we expect from now on?  Which normative rules could be considered normal and which abnormal?

It’s normal for two neighboring countries, separated by a mere 90 miles of water, to have diplomatic relations.  It’s not normal for the United States to impose an economic, financial and commercial blockade against Cuba.

It’s normal for the US to have an embassy in Havana and for Cuba an embassy in Washington. It’s not normal for the US embassy in Cuba to function without an ambassador, simply because some in the Senate oppose it.

It’s normal for US citizens to travel to Cuba, but it´s not normal to prohibit tourists from the US to travel to the island.

It’s normal for US citizens to travel to Cuba and engage in “people to people” contact, but it’s not normal that the Office of Finance and Assets Control (OFAC) limit it to only group-travel through licensed organizations, thus making travel to Cuba prohibitively expensive and inconvenient for many Americans.

It’s normal for Washington to permit businesses in the US to engage in commerce with private individuals in Cuba, but it’s not normal to make it illegal to do business with state enterprises on the island.

It’s normal for the United States to want a second consulate in Cuba to better serve the public, but it’s not normal that it uses its diplomats to intervene in Cuba’s internal affairs.

It’s normal for the United States to support a process of legal and orderly immigration from Cuba, but it’s not normal for Washington to maintain a Cuban Adjustment Act as a tool to stimulate an illegal, dangerous and disorderly immigration of Cubans to the United States.

It’s normal for the United States Embassy in Havana to provide an open-door policy for Cubans.  It’s not normal for its diplomats to organize, direct and employ as salaried dissidents a few Cubans of their choosing.

It’s normal for Washington to contribute to the entertainment of the Cuban people with radio and television programs.  It’s not normal for it to maintain a multi-million dollar budget to fund Radio and TV Marti as propaganda instruments.

It’s normal for Washington to want a reputation as a great defender of human rights.  It’s not normal for the United States to imprison without due process or civil rights dozens of persons in Guantánamo, as well as torturing them in Cuba.

It’s normal for the United States to have an embassy in Cuba, even a large one, located in prime real estate on the famous Malecón overlooking the bay in Havana.  It’s not normal for the United States to occupy, against the wishes of the Cuban people, a large swath of Cuban territory in the province of Guantánamo.

It’s normal for the Pentagon not to invade or send military drones to Cuba. It’s not normal that Washington earmarks a $30 million budget for fiscal year 2016 for a project whose declared purpose is to remove the government of Cuba from power.

It’s normal for Mississippi to be one of the 50 states of the US.  It’s not normal for Washington to assume that it has jurisdiction in Cuba as well.

It’s normal for the US to do business with Cuba, but it’s not normal for the US to intervene in her internal affairs.

It’s normal for Washington to condemn terrorism.  It’s not normal that it protect in Miami dozens of terrorists, including Luis Posada Carriles, who have committed heinous crimes against civilians in Cuba.

The US blockade against Cuba is a relic of the Cold War whose days are numbered. President Obama’s new Cuba policy, announced on the 17th of December, is a chronicle of the blockade’s death foretold. And it unleashed a torrent of enthusiasm from American businessmen who want to make money by investing there.  Businessmen will pressure the Congress to lift the Helms-Burton law that codified parts of the blockade.

But let’s not be naïve.  In order to truly say that relations between the US and Cuba are normal, Washington must understand that Cuba does not belong to it, that it is a violation of international law for the US to try and foment regime change in a foreign country and that Cuba must and ought be respected for what it is: a sovereign nation.

President Obama’s Cuba policy is a seismic shift in strategy for the United States.  “The old policy did not work.  It is long past its expiration date”, said Obama, in his most recent State of the Union speech before Congress. “When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new.”

What is the end game for the United States regarding Cuba?  What it is it that US Presidents wished had worked?  Clearly, the major premise of Washington’s Cuba policy was always regime change.  It failed, and the Cuban Revolution remains strong.  That is why President Obama said, that Washington should “try something new”.  Perhaps business can do what isolation could not.  Engagement is the new strategy to try and topple the Cuban Revolution.

Cuba is ready for Washington’s policy of engagement.  Just as she learned to build trenches to defend the island from invasion, terrorism, biological warfare and a brutal blockade, Cuba will now help the bridges that American businesses will cross to invest there.  But Cuba will also be wary.  To be sure, Cuba knows that Washington’s end game remains regime change.  Cuban laws have always regulated foreign business ventures, and American investment in Cuba will be no different.

Cuba welcomes better relations with the United States and hopes to advance toward normalization.  But unless and until the government of the United States has a political metanoia and cancels its desire to dominate Cuba, as it she were its vassal state, normal relations in the true sense of the word will not come to pass.

José Pertierra is an attorney in Washington, DC.

Next Steps in the Normalization of US-Cuban Relations: Thoughts From the Cuban Five

July 7, 2015

_1-cohnmarjorie2015_0702co_1(Marjorie Cohn with René González and his wife, Olga. (Photo courtesy of Marjorie Cohn)

By Marjorie Cohn, Truthout | News Analysis

Now that United States and Cuba are preparing to open embassies in each other’s countries, what else needs to happen to support the process of détente between the two countries?

During a recent visit to Cuba I posed this question to René González and Antonio Guerrero, two of the “Cuban Five” – five Cuban men who traveled to the United States in the 1990s to gather information about terrorist plots against Cuba and then became celebrated Cuban heroes during their subsequent incarceration by the United States.

Their reply? End the embargo and return Guantánamo Bay to Cuba.

“We have to remember that relations between the countries have never been normal,” González said, arguing that the normalization of relations won’t happen overnight. He added:

We were occupied by US troops in 1898. From then on, we were a subject of the US government and especially the US corporations. Then came the Revolution, which tried to correct that imbalance. Then came a different stage – of aggressions, blockade and policies against Cuba, which has lasted for more than 56 years. You cannot expect that establishing normal relations … [for] the first time in history is going to be an easy process.

Guerrero noted that the US had taken one major step toward normalization already by removing Cuba from its list of countries alleged to support terrorism but noted that the next step toward normalization will require a much larger step – ending the US embargo, which in Cuba is more commonly referred to as the “blockade.” Normalization, González said, will require “the dismantling of the whole system of aggression against Cuba, especially the blockade. Everybody knows how damaging it has been for the Cuban people. It’s a small island. For 50 years, it has been asphyxiated by the biggest power in the world. It had a cost on the Cuban people, on their economy.”

The Illegal Occupation of Guantánamo Bay

González also listed the return of Guantánamo to Cuba as necessary for normalization. After the blockade is lifted and Guantánamo is returned to Cuba, he told me, “I believe the process will take speed.”

González rightly pointed out that the US occupation of Guantánamo is illegal. The United States gained control of Guantánamo Bay in 1903, when Cuba was occupied by the US Army after its intervention in Cuba’s war of independence against Spain. Cuba was forced to accept the Platt Amendment to its Constitution as a prerequisite for the withdrawal of US troops from Cuba. That amendment provided the basis for a treaty granting the United States jurisdiction over Guantánamo Bay.

The 1903 Agreement on Coaling and Naval Stations gave the United States the right to use Guantánamo Bay “exclusively as coaling or naval stations, and for no other purpose.” A 1934 treaty maintained US control over Guantánamo Bay in perpetuity until the United States abandons it or until both Cuba and the United States agree to modify it. That treaty also limits its uses to “coaling and naval stations.”

None of these treaties or agreements gives the United States the right to use Guantánamo Bay as a prison, or to subject detainees to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment – which has been documented at the prison. The United States thus stands in violation of the 1934 treaty.

Moreover, the doctrine of rebus sic stantibus, enshrined in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and a norm of customary international law, allows one party to a treaty to abrogate its obligations when there is a fundamental change in circumstances. Using Guantánamo Bay as a prison and torturing detainees is a fundamental change in circumstance, which constitutes grounds for Cuba to terminate the treaty.

The Diplomatic Importance of Freeing the Cuban Five

The United States and Cuba would not likely have announced this week their plans to reopen embassies in each other’s countries if President Barack Obama had not successfully negotiated the full release of the Cuban Five in the agreement he reached with Cuban President Raul Castro on December 17, 2014. That deal, to work toward normalization of relations between the two countries, had eluded Obama’s 10 predecessors over a 55-year period. It will likely be Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement.

A part of the deal that had enormous symbolic significance to the people of Cuba was the freeing of Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramón Labañino – the three members of the Cuban Five who were still imprisoned at the time of the agreement. On December 17, 2014, the three men were granted clemency and returned to Cuba. The other two members of the Cuban Five – René González and Fernando González – had previously been released in 2011 and 2014, respectively, after serving their full sentences.

The case of the Cuban Five garnered international condemnation in particular because the five men had traveled to the United States to gather intelligence on Cuban exile groups for a very legitimate reason. Since Cuba’s 1959 Revolution, terrorist organizations based in Miami, including Alpha 66, Commandos F4, the Cuban American National Foundation and Brothers to the Rescue, have carried out terrorist acts against Cuba in an attempt to overthrow the Castro government. The most notorious was the in-air bombing of a Cubana airliner in 1976, which killed all 73 persons aboard, including the entire Cuban fencing team. These groups have acted with impunity in the United States.

The Cuban Five peacefully infiltrated these organizations. They then turned over the results of their investigation to the FBI. But instead of working to combat terrorist plots in the United States against Cuba, the US government arrested them and charged them with crimes including conspiracy to commit espionage and conspiracy to commit murder. Although none of the Five had any classified information or engaged in any acts to injure the United States, they were convicted in a Miami court in 2000 and sentenced to four life terms and 75 years collectively.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals unanimously overturned their convictions in 2005, ruling that the Five could not get a fair trial in Miami due to the pervasive anti-Cuba sentiment there. Nevertheless, the 11thCircuit, sitting en banc, upheld the convictions, and Hernandez’s life term was affirmed on appeal.

Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

The Cuban Five endured years of harsh conditions and wrongful imprisonment before their release. After being arrested, they were immediately put into solitary confinement and held in “The Hole” for 17 months. Solitary confinement amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, according to United Nations special rapporteur Juan E. Méndez.

“I believe they expected to break us down,” González added. The US government “used the CIPA [Classified Information Procedures Act] and randomly classified everything,” which “allowed them to prevent us from looking at the evidence,” González said. “So they put us in “The Hole” and then put the evidence in another hole.”

Yet, González noted, “Sometimes you have to react as a human with your dignity. And they went after our dignity. And we had to defend it. We were more committed. We were more encouraged to go to trial, and that’s what we did.”

“For us,” González said, “going to trial was great. We wanted to go to trial every day because we wanted to face them and expose the truth of terrorism against Cuba and how the government of the United States supported those terrorists.”

“They decided to behave like thugs.” he told me. “And then you have to resort to your moral values, again to your human dignity and defend that.” González said, “We always knew what we were doing there. We knew that we never intended to make any harm to the United States at all, to the US people. We were very clear on that. As a matter of fact, there was nothing in the whole evidence that would show hatred toward the United States or the US people or an intent to damage anybody. We knew that we were defending human life. And going to prison for defending the most precious thing which is the human life – it makes you strong.”

Surviving Prison Through Poetry and Art

I asked González and Guerrero how they survived prison for all those years. “Our humor never went down,” González said. “We played chess from one cell to another by yelling. We did poetry. Sometimes we had fun just reading the poetry through the doors.”

Guerrero also began writing poetry in prison.

“I started writing poems without even having paper,” he said. “A poem came to my head after they arrested me … And I cannot explain how because I wasn’t a poet. And then I started writing poems.” Guerrero never imagined that his poems would be published, but he shared them with the other prisoners and shared them with people in court. He couldn’t believe it when his first book of poems, Desde Mi Altura (“From My Altitude”), was published.

Guerrero also became a painter in prison. “The penitentiary is very tough,” he said. “So one day I went to the art room … that was another way to free my mind.”

I was thrilled when Guerrero gave me a copy of his newly published book, Absolved by Solidarity, a collection of his paintings depicting the different stages of the trial.

The Five Return to Cuba

When I asked what it was like when all the members of the Cuban Five were back in Cuba together, Guerrero said: “It’s a sense of joy. It’s a sense of victory. It’s a sense of returning to the place where you belong to. And it feels great.”

González added: “My little daughter was four months when I was arrested. I came to Cuba two days before her 15th birthday. I have a grandson now which is a beautiful boy.”

Both González and Guerrero said they had thought they would never see Hernandez in Cuba again because he was serving a term of life imprisonment. “My biggest fear was he would die there,” González said. “And let’s not fool ourselves. The US wanted him to die in prison. And the prosecutor wanted him to die in prison.”

“We know how hard it is to take him from those appetites,” he added, “and we managed to do that. It speaks a lot about Cuba, a lot about the Cuban people, because the Cuban people together as one did everything possible for the Five and it’s just pure joy.”

The Way Ahead

In the days ahead, the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States will rely most of all on the United States’ willingness to act out of respect for Cuban self-determination. “The only thing we want is respect,” Guerrero said. “Let’s try to build something now – good for you, good for us – with respect in the middle. … The point is, we don’t know if the interest of the American government is really to be respectful and friendly to the Cuban government.”

Guerrero said that even if millions of American tourists come flooding in to visit Cuba, he cannot conceive of Cuba becoming a capitalist country and forgetting about the Revolution. “Somebody may bring drugs, or somebody may bring a lot of money and try to buy things,” Guerrero said. “We are not accustomed to that. But we are ready to deal with that and create our security and our understanding. They will be received with peace, with love.”

González added that the Cuban people don’t have hatred or resentment toward the American people specifically. “We don’t blame the American people for the faults of the their government,” he said. “We know they are people like people anywhere. I believe that all of us have more in common than things that divide us. … And I hope sincerely that this new relationship with the US will allow Americans to come here and share with us this beautiful island.”

In June, the Cuban Five visited Robben Island in South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years by the apartheid regime. Hernandez wrote in the guest book, “It has been a great honor to visit this place together with some of the brave compañeros of Nelson Mandela,” who were “a source of inspiration and strength for the Five Cubans to withstand the more than 16 years in US jails.” Hernandez added that Mandela’s legacy is one “the Five will honor for the rest of our lives.”

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31697-next-steps-in-the-normalization-of-us-cuban-relations-thoughts-from-the-cuban-five

Cuban Five thank SA for support in securing their release from US prison

June 22, 2015

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The so-called Cuban Five have arrived in South Africa on a 13-day visit to thank the nation for campaigning for their release from a US jail where they were held for up to 16 years for spying among other offences.

Also known as the Miami Five‚ the five Cuban intelligence officers – Gerardo Hernandez‚ Ramón Labañino‚ Fernando Gonzalez‚ Antonio Guerrero and René Gonzalez – were arrested in September 1998 and later convicted in Miami of conspiracy to commit espionage‚ conspiracy to commit murder‚ acting as an agent of a foreign government‚ and other illegal activities in the US.

One was released in October 2011 and another in February 2014. At the end of 2014‚ the US swapped the remaining three members for an American intelligence officer held by Cuba.

Welcoming the Cubans to South Africa in a statement on Sunday‚ the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation acknowledged Cuba’s contribution towards a democratic South Africa.

“Cuba has furthermore participated in the reconstruction of South Africa after the demise of apartheid by training‚ inter alia‚ scores of South African youth in medicine in Cuba. Cuba’s ongoing support for the South African government’s main priorities through the implementation of joint programmes in health‚ social development‚ defence‚ housing and infrastructure is significant‚” the department stated.

The department added that the deployment of Cuban doctors‚ engineers and technical experts throughout South Africa was a further demonstration of Cuba’s commitment to work with South Africa to address the infrastructural back-logs inherited from the pre-1994 period.

International relations and cooperation deputy minister Luwellyn Landers will host the Cuban Five in Cape Town from June 22-23 under the theme “Cuban Five Heroes: Tribute to International Solidarity”.

Landers described the visit by the Cuban Five from 21 June to 3 July as an historic event due to the long years of support that South Africa had rendered to the campaign for their release.

“The Cuban Five all served in Angola during the liberation struggle against Apartheid Forces‚” he noted.

On Tuesday‚ the Cubans will meet with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation‚ which said last week there was no better time to enhance Cuba-SA relations than now.

The committee’s chairperson‚ Siphosezwe Masango‚ said the committee had invited the Cuban Five delegation to Parliament so that it could express its appreciation for their “heroic personal involvement” in the crucial Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola in 1987‚ which had “brought the dawn of independence in Namibia‚ the withdrawal of the South African Defence Force from Angola‚ and ultimately freedom in South Africa”.

“The Cuban Five will in return be afforded an opportunity to thank SA’s Parliament for passing resolutions calling upon the United States to release them and to end the economic blockade on Cuba‚” he said.

Masango expressed the hope that the government would enter into bi-national commissions and trade agreements with Cuba that would benefit both countries in the long term.

-RDM News Wire

http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2015/06/21/Cuban-Five-thank-SA-for-support-in-securing-their-release-from-US-prison

UNUSUAL CUBA ADS ON US TV

June 22, 2015

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By Manuel E. Yepe
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
http://www.walterlippmann.com/docs4401.html,

A different kind of publicity regarding Cuba has begun to reach
U.S. TV viewers, who, for more than half a century, have received
only slanderous criticism about political life on the island.

It is not that the mainstream media have changed their hostile
orientation, but the mere fact that some of them have allowed
–albeit paid– a different kind of publicity than
the one demanded by the US power elite since the triumph of the
popular revolution in 1959, is an encouraging sign for US
citizens and, of course, also for Cubans.

A new bipartisan coalition (Republican and Democrat) called
“Engage Cuba”, constructed of entities interested in developing
ties with Cuba, has emerged in line with the official
announcements of the governments of Washington and Havana in
December 2014. It has launched a campaign in major US media,
criticizing the archaic bans denying US citizens their
constitutional right to travel to and do business with Cuba.

The 30 second ad, produced by the advertising firm Shorr Magnus
Johnson, began airing on Tuesday, June 16, on cable television
services Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC.

The text points out that Americans are free to travel anywhere
in the world –with the exception of Cuba– and that
an estimated 5.9 billion dollars in annual US exports from the
United States are currently blocked by the outdated prohibition
–more in keeping with the Cold War– which prevents
trade with Cuba.

In the words of James Williams, president of the Engage Cuba
coalition,“Public polls show that Americans are saying,
‘We are tired of the Cold War-era policy that won’t
let us trade or travel to Cuba. We want our government to let us
play a role in this significant period of transition.’
That’s why we’re launching Engage Cuba.”

Engage Cuba had a role in negotiating the landmark deal that has
enabled the Cuban Interests Section and the future embassy of
Cuba in Washington to receive indispensable banking services for
the current process of normalization.

The coalition supports draft legislation known as Freedom to
Travel to Cuba Act (S. 299), submitted by Senators Jeff Flake and
John Boozman (Arizona Republicans) and Patrick Leahy (a Vermont
Democrat), which already has forty co-sponsors in the Senate.

Engage Cuba’s membership includes organizations and enterprises
in all sectors and major business groups like the National
Foreign Trade Council, the National Association of Manufacturers,
the Consumer Electronics Association, the Council of the
Americas, and the American Society of Travel Agents.

Also members of Engage Cuba are civil society organizations like
Third Way, CubaNow, Cuba Study Group and the Center for Democracy
in the Americas.

In addition, Engage Cuba is working directly with leading
companies sharing the goal of removing the travel and trade ban
on Cuba, such as Procter & Gamble, Cargill, Caterpillar, Choice
Hotels, and the Havana Group, among others.

“There is a growing number of bipartisan agreements, more than in
the previous 54 years of the policy of isolation, which has hurt
our own businesses and farmers,” said Steven Law, who was head of
the office of former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell/ A
aside from being the chair of the American Crossroads, McConnell
now serves as Senior Advisor to Engage Cuba. “The future of a
commitment with Cuba has come, and it’s time for Congress to help
manage the transition of that policy.”

“One of these days, our legislative branch of government
is going to have to start functioning,” says Luke Albee, a
senior adviser to Engage Cuba who served as chief of staff to
U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Patrick Leahy. “There is no
better way to help make this happen than to change our archaic
Cuba policy. It is in our national interest. And it is fair for
the United States and for the Cuban people.”

It is unquestionable that US citizens are among the most misled
and misinformed in the world. Their right to know the truth has
been systematically blocked and manipulated.

Sens. Moran and King Introduce Bill to Restore Trade with Cuba

June 13, 2015

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) on Thursday introduced legislation to restore trade with Cuba. The Cuba Trade Act of 2015 (S. 1543) would grant the private sector the freedom to export U.S. goods and services to Cuba while protecting U.S. taxpayers from any risk or exposure associated with such trade.

“I am proud to have my colleague Senator King join me in introducing the Cuba Trade Act of 2015,” Sen. Moran said. “Cuba is only 90 miles from our border, making it a natural market for our nation’s farmers and ranchers. By lifting the embargo and opening up the market for U.S. agricultural commodities, we will not only boost the U.S. economy but also help bring about reforms in the repressive Cuban government. I am hopeful that increasing the standard of living among Cuban citizens will enable them to make greater demands on their own government to increase individual and political rights.”

“For far too long, the Cuban people and American businesses have suffered at the hands of an antiquated trade embargo,” Sen. King said. “Like the Cold War that created it, the embargo should be put in the history books. The Cuba Trade Act would finally end our outdated embargo policy and establish a new economic relationship with Cuba that will support increased trade for American businesses and help the Cuban economy and its people to flourish. It’s past time we take this step forward, and I hope Congress will act to help bring our relationship with Cuba into the 21st century.”

S. 1543 would:

Lift the Cuba trade embargo to allow farmers, ranchers, small businesses and other private sector industries to freely conduct business with the island nation;
Grant U.S. financial institutions the freedom to extend credit to Cuba, while ensuring there is no financial risk to federal taxpayers; and
Maintain the current restrictions on federal taxpayer funds being used for trade promotion or market development in Cuba, while explicitly allowing private funds – including producer-funded checkoff programs – to be used for such purposes.
Nearly 150 U.S. organizations have voiced their strong support for commonsense reforms related to U.S.-Cuba relations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Foreign Trade Council, the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Farmers Union.

“The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba strongly supports the Cuba Trade Act because ending the embargo will foster new opportunities for agriculture in both our nations,” said U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba Spokeswoman Dianne Byrum. “We appreciate the commitment shown by Sen. Moran and Sen. King to develop this common-sense, bipartisan measure. We hope to see quick passage of this bill in the U.S. Senate, and an end to the embargo with Cuba as soon as possible.”

Sen. Moran has long fought for commonsense changes to U.S. trade policy with Cuba, which must import the vast majority of its food, to open up more markets for American farmers and ranchers. In July 2000, an amendment (H.Amdt.1031 to H.R.4871) offered by then Rep. Moran prohibiting funds from being used to enforce sanctions for food, medicine and agriculture products in a sale to Cuba passed the House of Representatives (301-116). The adoption of this amendment opened another needed market to farmers throughout the country. Unfortunately, changes in regulations by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 2005 once again severely restricted this market for U.S. agriculture producers. Since that time, Sen. Moran has continued to fight to enable farmers and ranchers to compete on a level playing field with foreign competitors when trading with Cuba.

Sens. Moran and King are also sponsors of The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2015 (S. 299), which would loosen travel restrictions to Cuba and remove restrictions on banking transactions incidental to travel that have long been unfairly imposed on American citizens.

Obama, Cuba and Venezuela

June 6, 2015
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Resistance to Normalization
Obama, Cuba and Venezuela
by MARK WEISBROT

Last week, the U.S. government took the deeply ironic step of removing Cuba from its list of “state sponsors of terrorism.” Ironic because, between the U.S. and Cuba, state sponsorship of terrorism has come from the U.S. and has been directed at Cuba.  These incidents have spanned more than four decades, from the launching of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, to the numerous U.S.-organized assassination attempts against Fidel Castro, to the blowing up of a jetliner and other terrorist attacks from Cuban exiles operating out of the United States.

The latest move removes one obstacle from the normalization of relations with Cuba, but there are many more ahead, including the embargo; and the much-hated U.S. military base and prison of Guantanamo, which the Cubans have indicated is a deal breaker if it is not closed down. Another irony: the U.S. government lectures Cuba about human rights while it illegally imprisons and tortures people on the island.

Interestingly, the Cubans have raised an issue with Washington that could have more important implications for the region than removing the 53-year-old embargo that has been condemned by virtually the entire world for decades. It is now apparent, as I first suggested a month ago, that the Cubans made it clear to President Obama that normalization of relations with Cuba would be limited if Washington was unwilling to normalize relations with Venezuela. This is important because U.S. hostility toward Venezuela, and especially its support for “regime change” there, have since 2002 poisoned relations with Latin America even more than the embargo against Cuba.

President Obama seems to have gotten the message, meeting with President Maduro of Venezuela at the Summit of the Americas on April 11, backtracking from his executive order that declared Venezuela an “extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security, and sending a top State Department official – Tom Shannon – to Caracas twice since April 7 to make peace. Shannon, a career diplomat

who was Assistant Secretary of State for President George W. Bush, is considered in Washington circles to be “pragmatic.” In the context of Venezuela, this means someone who favors support for groups that want to get rid of the government mainly through electoral means, rather than through violence and a military coup.

This is not the first time that President Obama has moved toward normalizing relations with Venezuela. In 2010, the administration attempted to re-establish relations at the ambassadorial level. This was sabotaged by then Senator Richard Lugar’s office, probably in collaboration with like-minded people in the State Department. Last summer, the U.S. accepted a chargé d’affaires – the number two position after ambassador – at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington. A few weeks after that, U.S. federal prosecutors had a Venezuelan retired general, Hugo Carvajal, arrested in Aruba – despite his diplomatic passport.  Aruba, an island with a population of 100,000 that is 17 miles from Venezuela, is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This arrest was close to destroying diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Venezuela, as Aruba agreed – in apparent violation of the nearly-sacrosanct Vienna convention protecting diplomats – to extradite him to the United States. Fortunately, the government of the Netherlands intervened, and ordered him freed on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.

The pattern is clear and easily understandable – there are many people within the Obama administration and Congress who do not want to normalize relations with Venezuela. (As was noted in the press, the same is true to a lesser extent for normalizing relations with Cuba – hence Obama kept top State Department officials in the dark for more than a year of negotiations.) So it was not surprising to see a 2,500-word Wall Street Journal article on May 18 with a far-fetched allegation that the head of Venezuela’s national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, was the chief of an alleged “drug cartel.”

The same federal prosecutors’ offices involved in the Carvajal case—cited anonymously, of course—were the main sources for the WSJ article. They were backed up by other, mostly far-right sources, and of course by convicted drug dealers who often get reduced sentences for pointing the finger at the appropriate villain.

It’s a dubious piece of work, with only one side of the story presented. (The WSJ, like much of the U.S. media, appears to “suspend the rules” of basic journalism, including fact-checking, when reporting on Venezuela.) The authors did include one tweet from a Venezuelan general, which succinctly summarized the ease with which these prosecutors can gather “evidence”:  “We all know that whoever wants his green card and live in the US to visit Disney can just pick his leader and accuse him of being a narco. DEA tours will attend to them.”

But the article gets the message across: As in the Carvajal case, these federal prosecutors’ offices will have sealed indictments ready to go if one of their targets should step outside of Venezuela, and a diplomatic crisis will be created. That would be the end of Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Venezuela, for the remainder of his term. And unfortunately, Miami and New York federal prosecutors are not the only U.S. government officials who want to prevent normal relations with Venezuela.

Now back to the Cubans and their negotiations with President Obama. They have some bargaining power here: It seems clear that Obama wants, for his legacy, to be the president that opened up relations with Cuba. Will they hold him blameless if right-wing elements within the U.S. government try to blow up U.S.-Venezuelan relations? Or will they remind him what Harry Truman said: “The buck stops here”?

Obama has proved himself to be quite tough when we wants something: he has faced down formidable opposition, including from one of America’s most powerful lobby groups, the Israel lobby, in order to pursue a nuclear deal with Iran. He can do the same for Latin America, if he so chooses.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of the forthcoming book Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

This Counterpunch-article originally appeared on Al Jazeera.

And what about Washington’s terrorists in Miami ?

May 22, 2015

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Andrés Gómez talks with Ricardo Alarcón

by Andrés Gómez, director of Areítodigital

Miami —Everything seems to indicate that once Cuba is removed from the U.S. List of States Sponsors of Terrorism at the end of May — given the prohibitions imposed on the countries on that List— a major stumbling block to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana will be overcome.

Another major obstacle that impedes the reestablishment of those relations is the reluctance of the U.S. government — once relations are reestablished — for its diplomats in Cuba to adhere to the functions permitted to any diplomat accredited in a given country, according to the regulations established in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, the international treaty regulating such functions to which both countries are signatories.

With the renewal of diplomatic relations will then begin a long, controversial and harsh negotiating process between both governments, towards achieving the long-awaited normalization of relations between both nations, between both peoples.

Long, controversial and harsh, to put it mildly, it will be if the United States government maintains the announced objectives of its new policy towards Cuba. According to Roberta Jacobson, Assistant United States Secretary of State, presently the highest-level official in charge of these issues: “My country is changing its tactics or the form of implementing its policy, but it has not abandoned its goals.”

What process of normalization of relations is possible between both countries if this is the supposed new U.S. policy towards Cuba?

In a negotiating process of “give and take” between the United States and Cuba, what can Cuba give to the United States in exchange for the U.S. government to eliminate the Helms-Burton law and all the regulations that make up the genocidal policy of Embargo? What can Cuba give the United States government so that it eliminates the equally genocidal Cuban Adjustment Act? What can Cuba give the United States for that government to return the illegally and forcibly occupied territory in Guantánamo bay where for more than a century the U.S. has had a naval and military base, and in recent years, it also maintains an infamous concentration camp? What can Cuba give the United States for Washington to end and condemn its policy of State Terrorism maintained against the Cuban people since 1959?

What can Cuba give the United States, for it to bring to trial the Cuban extreme right wing terrorists living in the United States who are responsible for countless and odious crimes, who are the executioners of this policy of State Terrorism?

What can the Cuban people give to the United States government so that it ends the policy of permanent aggression against Cuba that Washington has maintained since the revolutionary triumph in 1959?

What can the Cuban people give the United States government in such a negotiating process, if not its sovereignty, its right to self-determination, its independence, its socialist revolution, all its rights and freedoms, its exceptional gains, its enormous sacrifices, its spilled blood and its dead of more than 56 years of aggression?

Is this the negotiating process that the government of the United States is offering the Cuban people to achieve a normalization of relations between both countries?

The only thing that the U.S. government can sensibly do to really normalize relations between both peoples is to unilaterally and unconditionally dismantle all the framework of war that it has had in place for the last 56 years against the Cuban people; all the structure that has constituted its policy of permanent aggression against the freedoms and rights of the Cuban people, against the inalienable right of Cubans to live and develop in peace.

But now, how is the U.S. government — in this process of normalization of relations between both countries — not just terminate and condemn its policy of State Terrorism against the Cuban people, but rather, how will it bring to justice those terrorists of Cuban extreme right wing organizations before the courts and try them for their crimes? These are indispensable decisions that have to be achieved for the normalization of relations between both countries be attained. It will not be easy for Washington to achieve justice as the victims, their relatives and the rest of the Cuban people demand.

How many victims of that policy of terrorism have there been in Cuba? According to official figures there have been 3,478 people killed and 2,099 maimed. Given the horror that has resulted from the imperial policies of aggression and war against other peoples around the world in the last decades, perhaps the number of Cubans killed and maimed as a result of those years of a sustained terrorist campaign doesn’t seem to be so terrible…

Fidel knew how to place it in the proper context in a memorable speech on October 6, 2001, on remembering the 73 victims of the infamous attack, perpetrated by those same beasts, against a civilian airliner of Cubana de Aviación, on October 6, 1976.

Fidel explained: Comparing the population of Cuba [on October 6, 1976) with that of the United States last September 11, it is as if 7 U.S. planes, each one with 300 passengers onboard, had been downed the same day, at the same time,… And if we estimate the same proportion of the populations, the 3,478 Cuban lives lost due to those terrorist actions that originated in the United States, it would be as if 88,434 people had been assassinated in the United States from terrorist activities, the equivalent of the number of U.S. soldiers who died in the wars of Korea and Vietnam.”

Endless has been the experience and terrible the result of the U.S. State Terrorist policy against the Cuban people. And, obvious differences aside, it has also been hard for us Cubans who for decades have defended the rights of Cuba in the same places where those monsters live and thrive.

Last April 28 marked 36 years since the assassination of our comrade, member of the National Committee of the Antonio Maceo Brigade (Brigada Antonio Maceo), Carlos Muñiz Varela, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His assassins, all Cuban extreme rightwingers residing in Miami and Puerto Rico, have still not been brought to justice before the courts. The federal authorities in charge, mainly the FBI, are to blame for the fact that justice has not been achieved. They refuse to reveal the proofs in their possession that prove the guilt of the murderers.

But in Puerto Rico the family members and comrades of Carlos, Cubans and Puerto Ricans alike, led by his son, Carlos Muñiz Pérez — today older than his father was in 1979 when he was assassinated at 26 years of age — and our comrade Raúl Álzaga, have not ceased in their efforts to achieve justice for him and for Santiago Mari Pesquera, a young Puerto Rican independence fighter.

So then, what of Washington’s terrorists in Miami, Puerto Rico and other places, the ones who’ve carried out the U.S. policy of State Terrorism that has cost the Cuban people so much blood and suffering all these long decades?

They are here in Miami, still alive. Some of them are: Félix Rodríguez, Luis Posada Carriles, Pedro Remón, Frank Castro Paz, Santiago Álvarez Magriñat, Osvaldo Bencomo Robaina, Sergio Ramos Suárez, Secundino Carrera, Ramón Saúl Sánchez, Guillermo Novo Sampol, Antonio de la Cova, Virgilio Paz Romero, Héctor Fabián, José Dionisio Suárez Esquivel and Luis Crespo. Not many of them are named here, this is only a sample, but many are their hateful crimes.

In these times of change those terrorists ought to feel very vulnerable. The bosses who have protected them, if still alive, are very old and without the power they once enjoyed. The assassins know that many, many, things are changing. As Roberta Jacobson maintains, her government has not abandoned the objectives of its policy with respect to Cuba, but has changed its tactics, the form of implementing its policy… Now anything is possible.

Those terrorists, lackeys of the worst of imperialism, know that imperial powers throughout history, the United States in particular, have shown that they don´t have friends; what they have always shown is that they only have interests. Self interests.

Do these terrorists realize that maybe their days are truly numbered?

from: http://www.freethefive.org/updates/Comuniques/COAndres051915EN.htm

Cuba’s Coming Out Party at the Summit of the Americas

April 13, 2015
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Just the Beginning

Cuba’s Coming Out Party at the Summit of the Americas

by MEDEA BENJAMIN
Counterpunch

For the small island of Cuba, the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama marked a kind of “coming out” party. Banned from the for-capitalists-only gatherings from the time they began in 1994, Cuba was not only invited to participate in the Summit this year, it was the belle of the ball (albeit the belle was a shaky, 83-year-old Raul Castro who lacks his brother Fidel’s charisma). Cuba’s presence was heralded in the speeches of every nation’s leader and the handshake between President Obama and Raul Castro was the Summit’s Kodak moment.

In Raul Castro’s long 49-minute speech (he joked that because Cuba had been excluded from six prior Summits, he deserved six times the recommended eight minutes), he gave a history lesson of past US attacks on Cuba—from the Platt Amendment to supporting the dictator Fulgencio Batista to the Bay of Pigs invasion and the opening of the Guantanamo prison. But he was gracious to President Obama, saying he was not to blame for this legacy and calling him an “honest man” of humble origins.

President Obama certainly won praise throughout the Summit for turning this page in the Cold War. Some leaders insisted on clarifying, however, that Cuba was not at the Summit because of Obama’s nice gesture; Cuba was there because the leaders of Latin America insisted that there would not be another Summit without Cuba. Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, no lefty, recalled his position at the last summit, which he hosted, that Cuba must be invited to the next one. Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and others had threatened to boycott any new gathering without Cuba.

Argentine’s Christina Kirchner Fernandez went a step further in taking credit away from Obama: She said Cuba was at the table because it had fought valiantly and defiantly for over 50 years while suffering under the US blockade. Ecuador’s Rafael Correa said the Obama’s opening was good, but not good enough. He insisted it was time to end the “inhumane and illegal blockade” that had so damaged the Cuban people and to return the “occupied territory” of Guantanamo. Bolivia’s Evo Morales dismissed any notion of the US as a benevolent force now coming to aid poor Cuba; instead, he said, the US should just compensate Cuba for over 50 years of damages to its economy.

There were expectations that President Obama would use the summit to announce that Cuba would be taken off the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, a critical step in the normalization of relations. But unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

It’s hard for many Americans to understand the oversized significance Cuba has in the hemisphere. Colombia’s Santos thanked Cuba for its mediation of peace talks between his government and the FARC rebels. Other governments thanked Cuba for sending doctors to their countries, treating patients in poor areas where their own doctors refused to go, or for setting up medical schools or training their nationals in Cuban schools. There was praise for Cuba sharing its successful literacy program. But what most Americans fail to understand is the pride felt by so many people in Latin America—even people who don’t like Cuba’s policies—that for over 50 years the tiny island has managed to fend off the attempts by the US Goliath to overthrow it.

From the very beginnings of the revolution, the US government has used every means it could conjure up to overthrow Fidel Castro—from poison cigars to funding saboteurs to diplomatic isolation. History is littered with CIA and exile-sponsored dirty tricks, including the October 1976 attack on a Cuban jetliner that killed all 73 people aboard. Even in Panama, where the Summit took place, there was a plot in November 2000 to kill Fidel Castro by blowing up an auditorium where he was scheduled to speak.

So the fact that Cuba has managed to thumb its nose at the US for all these years is seen by many as nothing short of a miracle. “I was in Cuba on vacation,” Gabriela Gomez, a teacher from Panama told me. “I found its economy in tatters, with buildings literally falling apart. And I don’t like the restrictions on free speech and free assembly. But I love the fact that Cuba has managed to survive as a communist nation in the face of so much outside aggression.”

But is the US government really accepting Cuba as a sovereign nation that has chosen a different path? Or is it simply trying to overthrow the Cuban government by different means?

Reverend Raul Suarez who runs the Martin Luther King Center in Havana and in Panama for the Civil Society Forum that preceded the Summit, sees the same old intrigue, interference and manipulations. “Just look at what has happened at the Civil Society Forum,” he said. “The Americans paid for Cuban dissidents who have no following in Cuba to come to Panama and participate as Cuban representatives of civil society. Meanwhile, many of the representatives of Cuba’s mass-based organizations were not allowed in.”

“Half our delegation got here only to find that they couldn’t get the credentials they were promised, and were shut out of the meetings,” said Gretchen Gomez Gonzalez of the Cuban Federation of University Students, “while dissident Cubans who don’t represent anyone but themselves were given credentials to represent Cuban civil society.” Pro-government Cubans confronted the dissidents in the streets and at the meetings, calling them mercenaries for taking US money and carrying photos showing some of them embracing convicted terrorist Jose Posada Carriles. They also say that former CIA operative Felix Rodriguez, blamed for killing revolutionary hero Che Guevara, was at the Summit working with the dissidents.

The dissidents insist they are being attacked by pro-government mobs simply for promoting free speech and free assembly. The U.S. State Department condemned what it said was “harassment” and “use of violence” against participants.

The cordial meeting between Obama and Castro showed the positive face of the opening, while the clashes on the streets of Panama City represent the rocky road ahead for US-Cuba relations. But at least the path forward is a new one, with fresh momentum emanating from the Panama Summit.

Obama said the US opening could lead to more Americans visitors, more commerce, more investment and more resources for the Cuban people. If the US government could do that while leaving it to the Cuban people themselves to push for greater individual freedoms, that would be—to take a page from the Castro brothers—truly revolutionary.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of www.CODEPINK.org and author of several books on Cuba, including No Free Lunch: Food and Revolution in Cuba.


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